Top 10 of the World’s Best Restaurants in 2021

Have you been to one of the world’s best restaurants? This fall, The World’s Best 50 Restaurants, an organization that reflects the diversity of the world’s culinary landscape, did just that, ranked the top 50 restaurants around the globe.

Here’s everything that you need to know about their top 10 picks and how to get your name on the list.

10 - Ark ,COPENHAGEN, DENMARK

Considering its reputation as the ultimate foodie city (it went organic in a big way years before the rest of us, plus there’s Noma), the Danish capital has been relatively lagging when it comes to the vegan wave. But this new opening changed that overnight as British chef Brett Lavender (formerly of Tokyo’s much-loved Den) and Ark’s Australian owners attempt to lure the pork-loving Danes over to the delights of rich, almost chicken-like blue oyster mushrooms or a vibrant green starter of avocado cream, peas, and apple. The relaxed raised ground-floor locale, at a corner of a buzzing crossroads close to the Torvehallerne food halls, is furnished in a contemporary Scandi style – bare wood, no tablecloths.

Happily, for all the visual cues, and the natural wines that dominate the list, the food roams beyond the usual Nordic tropes with southern European, Middle Eastern, and Asian touches, such as the cauliflower steak blanketed with burnt shiso leaf and potato gnocchi with pureed pine nuts. The trick, apparently, is that the kitchen brigade is largely non-vegan, which means they strive to replicate the same umami quality and textures they achieve in meat- and dairy-based cooking – that and a special mushroom farm in the north of the city that specializes in unusual, meaty-tasting varieties. With more affordable little sister Bistro Lupa soon to join the gang, this forward-looking group is forcing the city to think about vegan food in an entirely new way.

9 - Happy Paradise ,HONG KONG

After launching the city’s Little Bao in 2013, chef and LGBTQ+ rights defender May Chow scooped up award after award and appeared on the late Anthony Bourdain’s TV show Parts Unknown. Her latest project is this cool Cantonese restaurant on the corner of busy Staunton Street, in the heart of Central, which pays homage to Hong Kong’s cultural identity. The camp-sounding name belies the pedigree of the place, while the interiors are part Wong Kar-Wai film, part cyberpunk video game, with tong lau (tenement) tiles, vinyl booths, and strips of candy-colored neon.

The menu is a surprise too, taking the humble egg waffle, found on almost every street corner, and turning it into a near-transcendent experience – the crisp snap of the batter, the fluffy spheres, that just-baked smell. Other unmissable dishes include ginger and spring-onion ‘crab’, which is actually cauliflower disguised as one of Hong Kong’s most popular plates, and seared skirt-steak rice noodles – silky fat tubes plumped with strips of Australian wagyu and hits of seaweed butter. Seasonal ingredients including spring-like yellowtail and cherry and radish salad also make an appearance. But it’s the classics that pull in the crowds and the cocktails. Very good cocktails, such as five-spice gin and tonic, and vodka with black tea and lemon, served in goblets decorated with pink paper flamingos. A kitsch, clubby restaurant that is bags of fun but has the flavors to match.

8 - Laser Wolf ,PHILADELPHIA, USA

The haughty village butcher from Fiddler on the Roof is the inspiration behind the name of Steven Cook and Michael Solomonov’s modern shipudiya, or skewer house, in Philadelphia’s Olde Kensington neighborhood. Their Zahav restaurant, with its soaring, singular interpretations of Israeli dishes, has long been one of Philly’s most celebrated hangouts and reservations have been tough to get for more than a decade. This new joint offers a scaled-down but similarly inspired experience – and just as with its older sibling, fire is the key to unlocking unexpected flavor. In Israel, shipudiyas are as common as stateside mom-and-pop diners, but uninitiated guests needn’t worry – the menu gracefully neutralizes any guesswork.

Pay a flat price per head, and the kitchen will promptly fill your oilcloth-topped table with creamy hummus-tehina, puffy oven-hot pita, a rainbow parade of communal salatim (salads), and hearty smoked skewers. Yes, they have the meats: Romanian beef kebabs, Persian-style koobideh, and juicy chicken shishlik. But Laser Wolf also throws the non-carnivorous a substantial bone, to the tune of tamarind-slathered trout and exquisitely charred mushrooms and aubergine. Set in a high-ceilinged repurposed warehouse with a casual vibe, it has the energy of Jerusalem’s frenetic Mahane Yehuda Market. The best place to sit is on a swivel stool at the L-shaped bar to work through some arak while watching the flames in the open kitchen. It’s the city’s most exciting newcomer – and a chance for the prolific duo to share their vision of Middle Eastern cooking with an even broader audience.

7 - Chefs Warehouse at Tintswalo Atlantic CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

The original Chefs Warehouse on Cape Town’s central Bree Street was the brainchild of chef Liam Tomlin, who introduced diners to his now-famous low-key tasting menu of eight tapas designed to share. His latest outpost is attached to Tintswalo Atlantic, a nine-suite bolthole in an extraordinarily remote setting within Table Mountain National Park. Furniture crafted by cool design studio Houtlander sets a deceptively laidback veranda scene on the water’s edge, which leaves diners wondering how the food will ever match up to the surroundings – at low tide, the boulder-strewn white-sand private beach could be in Seychelles.

Although the tasting-flight formula remains the same at this seaside spot, young-gun chef Braam Beyers is left to his own inventive devices when it comes to global references and techniques. He spent four years over the mountain at Tomlin’s Beau Constantia, but don’t be fooled by his intricate plating and dainty flourishes. Each pretty element packs a punch in classically French combinations such as scallop, pea, and truffle or heady North Indian berbere-seared tuna. From a fricassee of langoustine and leek in shrimp XO and Champagne sabayon to a simple springbok tataki, every single dish stands up to the next. Braam’s energetic crew rattle off descriptions and explain the provenance of wines while keeping up a friendly banter. Reserve a table as soon as your flights are confirmed – the restaurant has been booked out since its November debut. 

6 - MAISON ,PARIS, FRANCE

Simply ‘home’ for chef Sota Atsumi, this is the gritty-but-cool 11th arrondissement’s first seriously elevated spot. Atsumi trained under stars Joël Robuchon and Michel Troisgros before manning the stoves at tiny Vivant for Pierre Jancou, one of the game-changers who led Paris into its new era of bistronomy. More recently, Atsumi put Clown Bar on the map with distinctive dishes including brains with dashi.

But this is his very own, a dream-like space full of arty references and with a luxurious approach to dimensions: the central communal table is 25ft long and the ceiling height immense. Hefty relics hanging above the open kitchen recall the past of the building, a gabled low-rise and former workshop incongruous among six-story mansion blocks. Dried hydrangeas are a wink to the country-house aesthetic, while hexagonal tiles everywhere create an enjoyable optical-illusion effect. The pared-down tasting menus represent a smart take on the produce-focused cooking that has become the new norm from West Coast USA to East London. There are classic tiny tarts of onion, hazelnut, haddock and beetroot, intense spider-crab bisque, and monkfish with a mussel emulsion; instead of over-fiddling, Atsumi creates clever contrasts with confident plates including stickily blowtorched pigeon with his signature date-and-yuzu purée. This is a happy home indeed.

5 - LOLA ,COPENHAGEN, DENMARK

This 18th-century windmill has recently undergone an extensive renovation to welcome the return of one of the country’s most forward-thinking chefs, Kamilla Seidler. Having spent much of the past six years in La Paz, Bolivia, Seidler helped found one of South America’s foremost restaurants with Gustu, based on the seasonal principles of the New Nordic food manifesto. But with Lola, she’s moving things on with a wider-roaming roster of dishes influenced by Indian and Central American cooking. A highlight is squid podi in fermented beurre blanc sauce; another is inspired by the El Salvadorean pupusa, a kind of pita bread, served with kimchi and horseradish cream; and there’s a surprisingly hearty paratha with Indian spices and a double helping of the Scandinavian staple, celeriac. For pudding, chanterelle ice cream with buckwheat and salted caramel really shouldn’t work but does.

To drink, the limited-edition oolong-Mirabelle kombucha by local company Læsk is addictive. Best of all, the quality of the food is underscored by considerations of sustainability, and several of the staff are hired and trained as part of a programme to employ those from the fringes of the labour market. Offering a contrast to the capital’s other headline-grabbing new restaurant, Rasmus Munk’s epic, multi-million-dollar playground Alchemist, Lola is at the forefront of the new global social gastronomy movement.
This 18th-century windmill has recently undergone an extensive renovation to welcome the return of one of the country’s most forward-thinking chefs, Kamilla Seidler. Having spent much of the past six years in La Paz, Bolivia, Seidler helped found one of South America’s foremost restaurants with Gustu, based on the seasonal principles of the New Nordic food manifesto. But with Lola, she’s moving things on with a wider-roaming roster of dishes influenced by Indian and Central American cooking. A highlight is squid podi in fermented beurre blanc sauce; another is inspired by the El Salvadorean pupusa, a kind of pita bread, served with kimchi and horseradish cream; and there’s a surprisingly hearty paratha with Indian spices and a double helping of the Scandinavian staple, celeriac. For pudding, chanterelle ice cream with buckwheat and salted caramel really shouldn’t work but does.

To drink, the limited-edition oolong-Mirabelle kombucha by local company Læsk is addictive. Best of all, the quality of the food is underscored by considerations of sustainability, and several of the staff are hired and trained as part of a programme to employ those from the fringes of the labour market. Offering a contrast to the capital’s other headline-grabbing new restaurant, Rasmus Munk’s epic, multi-million-dollar playground Alchemist, Lola is at the forefront of the new global social gastronomy movement.

4 - Odette, Singapore

Inspired by the beauty of raw ingredients, the influence of Chef Julian’s grandmother Odette can be felt throughout the menu, art, and interior design of this noteworthy establishment. Diners can watch the chefs through a glass-enclosed kitchen as they meticulously craft each modern French dish with care and respect. The Odette team recommends pairing your meal with an accompanying fine wine for ultimate enjoyment.

Fun fact: Odette is located inside Singapore’s National Gallery complex, a public institution, and museum dedicated to art and culture.

3 - Central, Lima, Peru

Central aims to reconnect visitors with each other and with their roots through the power of food. Each unique ingredient represents more than meets the eye, instead, they urge you to connect with Peru’s inimitable landscapes, cultures, traditions, and history. Designed to encapsulate the stories of local people, each dish that Central serves is truly something special.

Central is run by husband-wife team Virgilio Martínez and Pía León who own two other restaurants, Mil and Kjolle.

An ode to Peru, Chefs Virgilio Martínez and Pía León’s flagship restaurant, Central, aims at celebrating Peru’s landscapes, history, and traditions through their dishes. The restaurant offers an abundance of fresh and locally produced meat and vegetables such as scallops, squid, and clams along with Sacred Valley’s pork belly and goat’s neck. With a special focus on being environmentally sustainable, guests are treated with a vegetable garden with over 100 plant species as they enter the restaurant. 

2 - Disfrutar, Barcelona, Spain

Distrufar, located in the Eixample district of Barcelona, offers a light-filled and white interior along with an outdoor terrace and a private lounge. Chefs Oriol Castro, Mateu Casañas and Eduard Xatruch came together to establish the restaurant in 2014. Some of their famous dishes include Panchino stuffed with caviar and sour cream and multi-spherical pesto with tender pistachios and eel. 

English for “enjoy”, Disfrutar is described by The World’s 50 Best as, “a thrilling contemporary experience orchestrated by a talented trio of chefs.” 2021 isn’t the first year that Disfrutar made the Top 50 list, in fact, the restaurant was ranked number 18 a few years ago in 2018.

Disfrutar is all about bringing unexpected combinations and flavors to diners, this is one of the reasons that the staff recommends choosing from the menu without reading the fine details. Examples of past dishes include panchino filled with caviar and sour cream and multi-spherical pesto served with pistachios and eel.

1 - Noma, Copenhagen, Denmark

One of the most coveted restaurants to be in the world, Noma is synonymous with creating new Nordic cuisine and inspiring renowned chefs across the world. Founded by René Redzepi, the restaurant was voted as the World’s Best Restaurant in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014 before closing down in 2016. With Noma 2.0 opening in 2018, they offer a dynamic menu corresponding to the seasons of the year. 

Ranking as number one is Noma, a Copenhagen-based establishment that continues to inspire chefs around the world with its signature New Nordic Cuisine and imaginative tasting menus. Always evolving, Noma has three menus depending upon the time of year – seafood season runs January through June, Veggie season runs throughout the summer, and game and forest hail supreme in the winter.

A meal at Noma is downright exciting because no experience is ever the same. Each ingredient is hand-foraged by the team so you never know what you’re going to get. A few fan-favorites from the past include vegetarian celeriac shawarma, sweet crab meat served atop a flatbread shaped like a crab, and fried cod collar with crème Fraiche and caviar.

However, with such notoriety, it comes as no surprise that snagging a table at Noma is no easy task. If you want to experience the culinary magic for yourself be sure to subscribe to the restaurant’s newsletter for regular updates.

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